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American Pottery Company: American Pottery Company

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Location: American Pottery Company

American Pottery Company

American Pottery Manufacturing Company
Fronted on Morris, Warren, and Essex Street
Paulus Hook

The American Pottery Manufacturing Company, one of the premier pottery companies in antebellum America, made the first molded pottery in America. The pottery company dates back to the Jersey Glass Works (later P.C. Dummer & Company) founded by George and Phineas C. Dummer in 1824. A year later, the Dummer brothers began the Jersey Porcelain and Earthenware Company, adjacent to the Jersey Glass Company.

According to Arthur W. Clement of the Newark Museum, “The honor of first commercially producing porcelain in this country must be given to the Jersey Porcelain and Earthenware Company of Jersey City. . . .” (12). William W. Shirley hired workers from England, Ireland, and France to manufacture Staffordshire earthenware and porcelain in Jersey City. In 1826, Dummer porcelain received a silver medal at an exhibition of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia for the "best china from American materials" (qtd. in Clement 114). However, it was soon found that the American raw materials for pottery production, such as the soil from Paulus Hook, did not measure up to the standards of the craftsmen or the imported English ceramics at the time.

In 1828 David Henderson, with his brother Joseph, bought the Jersey Porcelain & Earthenware Company and named the company D & J Henderson; in 1833, he incorporated and renamed it the American Pottery Manufacturing Company. He also appointed John V. B. Varick, Robert Gilchrist, and J. Dickinson Miller of Jersey City, among others, as commissioners to solicit stock options.

New Jersey art historian Barbara J. Mitnick credits Henderson for making New Jersey "a leading center for pottery production" (74). Henderson, born in Scotland around 1793, gained a reputation for introducing molded pottery making in the United States from England. The company produced refined white earthenware, brown-glazed stoneware, and yellow earthenware from this process. It reduced the cost of fine pottery to consumers and replaced the exclusive use of skilled potters. Henderson also introduced mass production into the making of pottery without sacrificing quality. According to Margaret E. White in The Decorative Arts of Early New Jersey, "This new method, borrowed from England, made possible the casting of stoneware, rockingham, and yellow ware pieces in mold, instead of shaping each piece by hand on the potter’s wheel. Casting in mold not only speeded production but also made possible the relief decoration so popular during the Victorian era in both ceramics and glass” (White 38-39).

Henderson also introduced the process of transfer printing on earthenware or printing a design from a paper pattern. Prime examples of this process were a blue copy of the (John) Ridgeway Canova pattern plate and the hexagonal pitcher with a portrait of William Henry Harrison during the presidential candidate's 1840 campaign. Another is a hexagonal pitcher (1843) depicting the landing of Major General Marquis de Lafayette at Castle Garden in Battery Park during the Revolutionary War.

The American Pottery Company became known for training workers drawn from across the nation and starting the careers of several English-trained potters in the United States. Among them are the ceramic modeler Daniel Greatbach, whose pottery may be found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the glassblower William Ridgeway, who made fireproof baking dishes, bowls, and pitchers. Others include James Bennett, William Bloor, and James Carr.

As Henderson’s master mold designer, Greatbatch produced many fine collectible pieces between 1838 and 1848. They included teapots, creamers and sugars in white glazed stoneware and the first American Rockingham hound-handle pitcher executed about 1840. Several pieces, as seen on this website, are in the Jersey City Museum collection.

The quality and design of the pottery produced at American Pottery place Henderson in the league of other famous American potters such as William Ellis Tucker and Christian Webber Fenton. White records that "His work received a silver medal at an exhibition by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in 1830 and the American Institute In New York that same year for new designs of earthenware pitchers, bowl, etc” (qtd. In White 38). The future of the Pottery Company, however, was affected by Henderson's death in 1845. He was killed in a shooting accident in the Adirondack Mountains. For experts in the craft of pottery, the American Pottery Company and Henderson established “the cradle of the pottery industry in the United States” (qtd. In White 40).

In the 1850s, Henderson's American Pottery Company was renamed The Jersey City Pottery. English potters John Rouse and Nathaniel Turner bought the company to work their craft in the United States. The business started to fail in the 1860s during the Civil War. After the sale of the property in 1892, the buildings were razed.

According to local historian Joan D. Lovero, the Dummer brothers and David Henderson were "the earliest local example of corporate philanthropy" (34). They recognized that their mostly Roman Catholic workers could only attend religious services by traveling to New York City. To remedy the situation, they helped finance the start of the first Catholic congregation in Jersey City. The workers temporarily used the facilities of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church until St. Peter's R.C. Church on Grand Street was constructed in 1837.

Henderson Street was originally named for David Henderson. Besides founding the American Pottery Company, he was the general manager of the Adirondack Iron Company in 1838, later the Adirondack Steel Manufacturing Company under Joseph Dixon (1864.) In 1982, Henderson Street was renamed "Luis Munoz Marin Boulevard," the "Father of Modern Puerto Rico."  Marin was Puerto Rico's first elected governor in 1949 and the architect of Puerto Rico's status as a commonwealth of the United States.

American Pottery Company References Box

Clement, Arthur W. The Pottery and Porcelain of New Jersey, 1688-1900: An Exhibition, April 8 - May 11, 1947. Newark, NJ: Newark Museum.
‚Äč"Death of George Dummer."  New York Times 24 February 1853.
"Jersey City: Shaping American Pottery Industry." Jersey City Museum Newsletter. Fall 1997.
Lovero, Joan Doherty. Hudson County: The Left Bank. Sun Valley, CA: American Historical Press, 1999.
Mitnick, Barbara J. "Picturing Revolutionary New Jersey: The Arts." In Barbara J. Mitnick, ed. New Jersey in the American
. New Brunswick, NJ: Rivergate Books, 2005.
Pepper, Adeline. The Glass Gaffers of New Jersey. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971.
White, Margaret E. The Decorative Arts of Early New Jersey. Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1964.